A new report suggests that the Apple Watch’s maker has sold its wearable short when it comes to its performance in water.
Developer Craig Hockenberry says that the wearable works (mostly) fine in liquid and knows because he swims with his smartwatch regularly. In the ocean.
Where sharks live.
Hockenberry’s extensive and fascinating report claims that the Apple Watch is a fine companion for swimming, but he includes a few conditions.
“Like other iOS devices, the Apple Watch uses a capacitive touchscreen,” Hockenberry says. “Using our bodies as a conductor, the screen senses changes in capacitance using an electrostatic field that surrounds the display. When you surround your body and screen with a conductive liquid [like water], that dynamic is shot to hell.”
This means that submersion in water compromises Apple Watch features like Force Touch and even simple swiping, which makes it difficult to end your swimming workout once it’s done — or even to start it on time.
“You don’t really start swimming until after you get beyond the surf break,” Hockenberry writes. “If there’s heavy surf, this can take several minutes. Workout data is being collected while your [sic] standing and waiting for waves to clear.”
That may not seem like a huge deal, since any fitness data is good, right? But that extra bit at the beginning, before you really start working out, can dilute your heart rate data and make your reported average lower than it actually was during the exercise session.
Regardless, the writer concludes that the Apple Watch performs admirably for his purposes, although he does emphasize the importance of washing the device with fresh water after use to prevent salt corrosion, and he has a few suggestions to Apple for cleaning up its basic exercise-tracking functionality.
He suggests an option to enter workouts manually, more integration of the watch’s side button to sidestep the swiping and Force Touch issues, and streamlining the process to end a workout session to make it easier on tired muscles to press tiny buttons correctly (it’s a real concern).
Apple Watch continues to surprise users with its capabilities and durability. And while Apple isn’t likely to approve a dedicated swimming app soon, hopefully it’s taking these notes into account when it looks at updating the Workouts app.